Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 10, October 1968


I have just read Mr. Isdale's story of Totara Pa in the May 1968 [No. 9: Totara Pa - E] volume of the Journal. It brings to mind a midnight discussion I had on that topic in the mid thirties with a Malcolm-Fraser who was at that time Harbour Board Secretary in Whangarei.

Malcolm-Fraser was interested in the Totara Pa story and I told him what I knew of its history. I had some right to do so as I came from Thames and was, moreover, familiar with the versions of its history which had been accepted from time to time by the New Zealand University in the theses of honours students.

I soon found that Malcolm-Eraser knew all that I knew and believed about the Totara Pa massacre, but that he regarded it all as so much nonsense because the generally accepted story included no mention of Hongi's particular motive for his expedition and his attack on the Pa.

Malcolm-Fraser claimed that the Ngati Maru had a fabulously beautiful greenstone mere. I have forgotten its name. This mere had been promised to Hongi probably for a consideration that it would be easy to guess at. However, when Hongi claimed his present, he was told that it had been given to some other powerful Chief Hongi was furious, and assembling his war-party he set out for Thames.

To make sure that he had succeeded in convincing me, Malcolm-Fraser then took me, at about one in the morning, to the Whangarei Harbour Board building. Up on the top floor a large room had been set aside for Malcolm-Fraser's private museum. In it was the most astounding collection of Maori artifacts that I have ever seen. Stout shelves, two feet wide, groaned under a great weight of stone implements. Here and there, jack-knifed in sitting postures were ragged-looking skeletons.

Malcolm-Fraser made straight for a large, polished rimu chest. He opened the lock with a key and there lying on a thick bed of cotton-wool was an enormous greenstone mere. I think it was at least 21 inches long. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I was not told how it came into Malcolm-Fraser's possession.

I remember, and this is only by the way, that Malcolm-Fraser claimed that the Maoris sometimes mummified their dead. He picked off bits of flimsy fabric from a squatting skeleton to prove his point. He also said that he was being pestered by German anthropologists who wanted to buy parts of his collection.

My sole reason for writing this is the hope that some reader may know of Malcolm-Fraser, and may have seen or heard of this fantastic mere. Malcolm-Fraser will have long since passed on but where is the mere and what is its real history and what happened to this collection which was housed where I saw it? Malcolm-Fraser did have a son. In the early thirties he played full-back for Ponsonby but I have not heard of him since.